A Malaysian parliament member has sparked international outrage after reportedly claiming there is “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying her rapist, even if the victim is an underage child.
Malaysian MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya from Penang made the comments at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday during a debate over a bill on sexual crimes against children, arguing against a proposal that criminalizes child marriages.
While Yahaya acknowledged rape as a criminal offense, he insisted that rapists and their victims could resolve social problems and could be “given a second chance to turn a new leaf through marriage.”
He continued, “Perhaps through marriage, they can lead a healthier, better life. And the person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems.”
Furthermore, Yahaya also suggested that girls as young as 12 might be “spiritually and physically” ready for marriage. “They reach puberty at the age of 9 or 12,” he said. “And at that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old. So, physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry,” Yahaya said during his parliamentary debate.
His outrageous arguments have sparked a social media firestorm, with some opposing politicians calling for Yahaya to be fired.
Sharmila Sekaran, chair of the advocacy group Voice of the Children (VOC), told reporters at The Guardian: “I was outraged that he would make such a statement … basically, to justify and legalize a wrong, a statutory rape.” Sekaran added, “He’s a leader of society, as a member of parliament, and it’s worrying that he has this line of thinking.”
She expressed concerns saying, “It does send a message across the country that it is something that we are supposed to be okay with. That’s a very worrying trend: ‘Go and rape someone and, if you get caught, offer to marry them.’”
Meanwhile, chief minister Lim Guan Eng requested Yahaya step down as a member of Parliament, calling his remarks “depraved and sick.”
“We don’t want people with no compassion for rape victims to be an MP,” he said at a news conference. “We are ashamed to have an MP like this from Penang. Even though he’s not in the state government, he is a black mark for Penang.”
Government minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan took to Facebook on Tuesday to state the following:
“Every child has the right to live, to dream, and to have fun. While it is the parents’ responsibility to provide a decent childhood for their children, the government and lawmakers have the responsibility to protect the best interest of Malaysian children.”
He added that “laws are enacted to protect our children — especially underage girls,” and that the law “is unequivocal on this matter.” Under the Malaysian Penal Code, “it is considered statutory rape for a man to have sex with a girl under 16 years of age — with or without her consent,” he wrote.
“Therefore, it is abhorrent in this 21st century to suggest that a rapist — who should in the first place be prosecuted — has the means to escape legal responsibility simply by marrying his victim.”
Below is a news report explaining how Yahaya tried to backtrack on his comments:
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